Deputy DEP secretary Jeff Littlejohn resigns
After three years of running the regulatory side of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Deputy Secretary Jeff Littlejohn — son of veteran Florida Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Chuck Littlejohn — turned in his resignation Friday afternoon.
Littlejohn, a frequent target of criticism from environmental activists, said in his resignation letter that he was glad he had been able to reduce “unnecessary regulatory burdens” on Floridians by eliminating or streamlining hundreds of rules “without lowering environmental standards.”
He also said his staff of 1,250 had “significantly reduced the time it takes to make a permit decision” from 79 days in 2010 to 28 days this year.
Littlejohn, who earned $125,000 a year, said he would be pursuing a job in the private sector, but did not say what. Prior to being hired by DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard Jr. in March 2011, Littlejohn spent more than 10 years working as a consulting engineer getting state and federal permits for his clients.
In a memo to the staff, Vinyard hailed Littlejohn’s work at DEP, which he said “yielded tremendous performance gains for DEP and Florida’s natural resources.”
Littlejohn made headlines a year after his hiring when he ordered the agency’s top wetlands expert to approve a permit that she said would violate state law. When Connie Bersok refused, she wound up being suspended and investigated by the agency.
Later, during a legal challenge to the permit, a judge declared Bersok to be the only one giving credible testimony, and blasted Littlejohn and the DEP for creating a new approach “developed by the department and Highlands Ranch, without opportunity for public participation or input.”
Last year, when four of the agency’s attorneys who prosecuted rule violators were let go, one of them said Littlejohn was to blame. Although he was in charge of regulatory programs, “Littlejohn doesn’t like enforcement,” Chris Byrd said. “He doesn’t want the department to do any high-profile enforcement cases.”
Vinyard announced Friday that Littlejohn’s replacement will be Clifford D. “Cliff” Wilson III, who like Littlejohn worked at an engineering company prior to being hired at DEP at the start of Gov. Rick Scott’s term in office. In Wilson’s case, he was a project manager at Preble-Rish Inc.